Bananas–everything you wanted to know about them and more

My daughter-in-law brought three books she thought I might enjoy. One was called Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World. Well, it’s everything you wanted to know about bananas and then some! (Short review below)

But it reminded me of a couple of banana stories, a Depression Era one from my mother, and one from my trip to Bosnia in 2001.

The Goff Reunion

The summer of 1931, one of Leora’s brothers drove their widowed mother, along with cousins Doris Wilson and and Maxine Goff to the Goff reunion. Grandmother Goff took bananas to share. They were not common in Dexter, Iowa, in those days, so were a real treat. She cut them in half to serve at the potluck. Mostly the kids chose them, and someone ate so many he got sick. Doris, almost 13, had never tasted a banana before. Bananas had been shipped to the US for years, but probably wasn’t common in Dexter, population 748, during the Depression. 


I visited Bosnia in 2001 with a family who came to Iowa as refugees of the Bosnian war. I’d helped teach English as a Second Language (ESL) and accompanied Zlatka to the doctor for prenatal visits, even being with her during labor and delivery when Adis was born in 1997.

It was still common for the breadwinner of a family in Bosnia to have a job in another country. Zlatka’s father, who worked in Austria, returned home to Skokovi while we were there, bringing bananas (among other things) with him. At least four of his grandchildren were there that day. The room became so quiet as they settled down to enjoy those bananas. I’ll always remember how their grandfather beamed as watched his grandchildren savor those treats.

Cousins Dzemal Kovacevic (age 6), Adis (almost 2) and Dzenaela Dogic (5), Rifet Kovacevic (5), near Skokovi, BiH, June 2001

The Book

My thoughts on Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World: This book is everything you ever wanted to know about the ubiquitous banana, and then some. Besides why banana peels are funny, the history of the popular fruit is fascinating and horrifying, from dodging diseases, cruel economics, and complicated politics.

Belgium is the center of studies by banana scientists, with dozens of varieties grown on several continents. At the end of this very thorough book, written by Dan Koeppel, is a banana timeline, a bibliography, and an index.

Doris’s story is from Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression. The 1931 Goff reunion was a memorable one for Doris, for two more reasons than her first banana.


  1. The availability of fresh fruit around the world, any time of year is something we take for granted now. The Cavendish banana’s days may be numbered, but we’ll manage.

  2. Years ago, my daughter attended a Christian music camp that attracted students from other countries. When it was “Parents day,” a girl next to us from another country (I don’t recall her nationality) sat at our table. She removed the top peel of her banana and then sliced it into neat little cubes before eating it with a fork from the bottom peel. She told me that’s how they ate bananas in her country. So, that’s my banana story! 🙂

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